Airbnb A Threat To Affordable Housing? Company’s Problems Aren’t Just In Public Safety

It wouldn’t be a surprise to hear that Airbnb is a threat to affordable housing. The company, who has investors like actor Ashton Kutcher, is a service that allows people to rent rooms for short periods at a time. Due to this very flexible system that allows millions to casually come and go as they please, it might be affecting the way people rent apartments especially in places like New York City.

The New York Daily News suggests that while Airbnb is masked with the definition of being a flashy innovative tech start-up, it’s starting to affect the way potential renters see real estate. Why call up a real estate agent when a person can click on the Airbnb app on their phone? Better yet, why deal with astronomical renters fees for long periods when you can simply get away with paying for a few days? While some people may argue the stability in renting for a few days at a time, Airbnb’s usage is on the rise.

Airbnb’s CEO Brian Chesky appeared on the Colbert Report to discuss the business model further and explain how it’s not like “home prostitution” as it’s being labeled in recent reports.

“What the sharing economy really means is that now people in 60 seconds can be micro-entrepreneurs. We launched during the economic crisis of 2008 and there were people who really needed this change to happen. I think it’s fundamentally a good thing for the world.”

That said, whether you agree that it’s a positive or negative presence on our society, it’s still a big force to contend with as it’s now recognized worldwide. According to Chesky, 25 percent of the 600,000 World Cup attendees used the app in Brazil while the games were going on. That’s pretty impressive.

Of course, there are issues with the start-up company. For arguments sake, someone can say that a place like Airbnb isn’t the safest option, given that you don’t know what you’re walking into aside from a few standard photos of the property. Still, legislators have wised up that the business model is changing the way people are utilizing their needed space. On the other side of that are the landlords who can easily make money illegally.

The New Daily News reports that in 2010 housing advocates gathered together with legislators to prevent landlords from illegally renting out their residencies as illegal hotels.

“Landlords were evicting residents from affordable units and single-room occupancy buildings, opting to make more money by renting the residential units as unregulated, cut-rate hotel rooms, undermining the rent laws that protect our affordable housing and creating public safety issues.”

Those public safety issues are still rising with Airbnb’s popularity. It’s not just the landlords who want to take advantage of this system — it’s also the renters. Just in recent memory, one story got a lot of attention when a man decided to turn someone’s apartment into a sex party. The tenant only found out once his Chelsea apartment was ransacked and destroyed to the tune of $23,817. Another story followed two men, Maksym and Denys Pashanin, who became California squatters by using the popular app.

Even though there was an effort back in 2010 to stop this from happening, according to the New York State Attorney General’s Office, two-thirds of the rented spaces are in violation of the law. With landlords breaking the rules and cherry picking what pieces of legislation to follow, this has created an underground market that is very hard to regulate, and in some situations just diminishes the housing market.

One of those reasons being is that the neighborhoods such as Harlem, Williamsburg, and Bed-Stuy are being used by the company which results in forcing out longtime residents. This is in favor of temporary housing via Airbnb from people who can afford or are at least willing to pay high rates. Additionally, this is probably the reason behind the high volume of usage in very expensive areas of New York such as Midtown, Upper West Side, and Greenwich Village.

With Airbnb not addressing these problems and other start-ups looks to capture and run with the business model the company started, this is truly only the beginning.

[Image via Bing]